Sterling Evolution Series – Helix 9.5mm Rope
When you and your partner are up two pitches on the crux of a multi-pitch climb the last thing you want to worry about is your rope. If you’ve done your homework and selected the right cord for the job it’ll give you the confidence you need to focus on the climb, not the rope. You have to trust it just like you trust your partner belaying you.
When I pick ropes for our multi-pitch climbs at Chicks, I put a lot of thought into it and make sure we have a small quiver to choose from. The top qualities I seek out for a multi-pitch rock climbing rope are durability, lightweight and a good hand (not too stiff or too soft). I prefer bi-color ropes but any rope with a good middle mark will work for descents when only one rope is needed.
Chicks partners with Sterling Rope because we believe they are the best in the industry. Their R&D process is robust, dedicated to excellence and has produced what I am confident to say are the best ropes you can buy. In addition to choosing which Sterling ropes we use at Chicks, I test Sterling Ropes as a member of their Team, which I’ve done for many seasons and used most of Sterling’s ropes extensively. I know first hand, which rope is the best for the job.
In my opinion, the best multi-pitch rope out there is Sterling’s 9.5mm Evolution Helix. The Helix, and it’s smaller sister the 9.2mm Aero both have some unique qualities that set them apart from anything else on the market and make them our go-to ropes for multi-pitch adventures. I’ll break them down into the qualities I mentioned above; durability, light weight and hand. I’ll also refer back to classifications I laid out in our Tech Tip on How to Choose a Rope
No matter what the rock type, friction and sharp edges are factors unless your route is entirely overhanging. The friction of the rope running through carabiners and over rock adds to your drag. Sharp edges are common and present one of the most problematic concerns for climbing ropes. Even in a perfect world of glaciated granite slabs, ropes wear over time with use. If you’ve ever used a “Skinny Bitch” (referring to 8.9 to 9.2mm ropes discussed in the link above) for repetitive multi-pitch ascents you’ve probably had a core shot or extensive fuzzy bits on the sheath that aren’t very confidence inspiring. If you’ve used your “Workhorse” for longer routes you’ve experienced strain on your elbows with belaying and the weight on your back from carrying it to and from the route. Although these ropes will both get the job done, they don’t compare to the middle of the road, “All-Around” ropes typically from 9.4 to 9.7mm for multi-pitch use. The “All-Arounder” is going to stand up to more abuse, but still handle like a skinny rope while taking up less space in your pack and wear on your back. This is the Helix at 9.5mm. What makes the Helix stand out when it comes to durability is an incredible 41% sheath to mass ratio. The durability of a rope depends on it’s sheath. With 41% of the Helix (and Aero) being sheath, this translates to unrivaled abrasion resistance. If you go with Sterling’s new DryXP treatment, you lower the friction and water resistance even more, further increasing it’s awesomeness.
Regardless of how many pitches or how long the approach, we just don’t want to carry more than we have to. Whether on your back or tied in leading a long pitch, a heavy rope is a drag. This is why we usually leave the “Workhorses” on the ground for top roping and take the “All Around” or “Skinny Bitches” up longer climbs. The “All-Around” Helix is our top choice for a rope balanced with lightweight and durability. Weighing in at 59 grams per meter (g/m), a 60 meter Helix is only 7 lbs. and 12 oz. Thats’ completely reasonable for all it’s other great attributes.
Sterling has produced a super tight weave with a unique pattern on the Helix that gives this rope a solid hand out of the bag. “Hand” is a term rope manufacturers refer to for the feel of the rope when coiled, knotted or working a belay. Many ropes when new can be stiff and don’t hold a knot well or they’re soft and feel almost lifeless. On the contrary some ropes are supple out of the bag but when they get dirty tend to stiffen up. The Helix is instantly easy to work with, holds the knot as you tied it and pays through belay devices like butter. The tight sheath resists twists, dirt and it plays through carabiners with remarkably low friction. The hand doesn’t change over time, which leaves this rope remarkably consistent and easy to work with.
What’s really quite remarkable about the 9.5 Helix is it’s UIAA rated to withstand one more fall than it’s bigger sister the 9.8 Evolution Velocity (Helix = 7 UIAA Falls as compared to the Velocity’s 6). The Helix’s lighter yet more robust core construction is the difference, also boasting greater water resistance. Also unique to Sterling; you can purchase the Helix and most of their ropes in whatever length suits your adventure… 40, 50, 60, 70 or 80 meters.
This is the last determining factor which some will place first when purchasing a new rope. Your rope is your lifeline out there in the vertical realm. My opinion is that price should be the least of your deciding factors, but sometimes that just isn’t practical.
MSRP: A 60m non-dry Helix will run you $212.95 with the BiColor option bumping that up to $276.85. Add the new DryXP treatment and a 60m goes for $238.95, with the BiColor DryXP option bumping that up to $309.95
Sterling marks all of their non-BiColor ropes with a durable middle mark, so you can’t go wrong. Spend the money and focus on the climb, not your rope. Read the many other Helix reviews on the web and decide yourself. We’re sticking with Sterling Rope.